Tug of War

We’re entering a new phase around here, and it’s good. Really it is. But while it is good, it is also aggravating.

Stinkerbelle has always been a sheeple. She’s a little follower, a little sheep of a person. It’s just that she’s so easygoing and laid back, she just doesn’t mind following the crowd. And that’s fine. But if I am honest, it was beginning to concern us a little bit. All we could imagine was her being led by the nose by the problem kid, or being subjected to bullying because she would not stand up for herself.

So we’ve been encouraging her to do things herself, to make choices, to lead. And we wait, for that inevitable phase that comes with most kids where they begin to assert themselves.

It’s not that she’s not independent. Oh no. She’s completely confident and will set off into new situations without a thought. She’s so social, it doesn’t occur to her to NOT just jump in and get going. The problem is more that she doesn’t take the lead, or assert herself when she should.

Mostly it’s just that she isn’t fussed, one way or the other. She’s totally happy to just go with the flow.

But we have been waiting and hoping for some of those typical behaviours of kids her age, asserting their independence. And it has begun to happen, with the demand to do things “ALL. BY.  MYSELFS.”

She’s been doing things independently, getting dressed and choosing things and so on, for a long time now, but the emphatic assertion of “ALL BY MYSELFS” is a fairly recent one. And to be honest, I was absolutely tickled the first time she demanded to do something “all by myselfs”, something she had always done by herself like putting on her own pajamas or whatever. But then suddenly, it became A THING.

And we love it, and encourage it, and praise her to the skies when she gets things right, and help her when she struggles. The struggles used to be marked with pouting and sulking and fussing, but thanks to an episode of Blue’s Clues, she picked up a strategy for dealing with frustration. So that was brilliant.

Lately, though, we’re finding she is asserting herself in a much more physical fashion, and while we’re happy that she’s making the leap, it’s FREAKING ANNOYING.

We find ourselves, several times a day, playing tug-of-war.

It usually goes like this: She wants to do something. She can’t, so she asks us to help her. Or she fusses and carries on so we say we will help her. And then, the disputed coat or shoe or whatever she needs help with is the middle of a tug of war, with us saying BUT YOU WANTED SOME HELP and her pulling back and saying I DO IT ALL BY MYSELFS.

Which, especially when she has asked for assistance, is pretty fricking annoying. Doubly so if you’re trying to get something done or get out the door or whatever.

Sometimes, it’s just that she has decided she doesn’t want to give something up or put something down just yet. So we’ll ask her to put something away, or bring something to us, and when we reach out and take hold of it, there’s resistance on the other end.

She digs in and pulls back.

Funnily enough, she never went through that phase as a smaller child, as most kids will do. She almost never struggled over a toy with another child. She was always happy to share, and never gave it another thought if someone took a toy from her. And, as a parent, sitting back and watching other kids ripping toys from her hands was hard. It’s hard to watch your kid being mistreated, even in the little toybox skirmishes. And she certainly never fought us on giving things to us or putting things away.

So although it’s annoying, it’s gratifying that she’s standing her ground a little bit. I’ve seen her tug back when she doesn’t want to share a toy, although we always make sure sharing is known to all parties involved to be a good thing. (Yes, I parent other people’s kids. And the kid’s parents, too, if they refuse to step in. WHAT.)

But when you fight these little micro-battles each day, it just becomes an annoyance. The tug-of-war becomes a hindrance to getting things done or grinds on your nerves, and eventually perspective? Is nowhere to be seen.

So, periodically, we have to remind ourselves that this is a good, good thing. And to fight the battle and lose occasionally. And to just let it ride. Because she needs to learn to assert herself without fear of repercussion (yet, until she’s old enough to grasp the concept of picking your battles) as well as without thinking she will always lose all the time because Mom and Dad are In Charge.

It will get easier as her language is improving so we can begin to negotiate and reason. Also, we are starting to learn that sometimes, the battle is one of mindless stubbornness, which is another level of development altogether: testing boundaries.

STOP ALL THIS DEVELOPMENTAL CHANGE ALL AT ONCE KID I CAN’T COPE WITH BOTH OF THESE THINGS WHAT AM I SOME KIND OF SUPERWOMAN.

So, we will be engaging in the pushme-pullyou battles over shoes and shirts and dog knows what else for the foreseeable future. And because it’s as unpredictable as the weather and the whims of a four-year-old, it’s not like I can plan for these things. So if I am late, you’ll know why.

IT’S TOTALLY HER FAULT. I’m just sayin’. But it’s all good.